Experts: U.K. Referendum on Membership in European Union

On June 23, Britain will hold a referendum deciding whether or not to leave the European Union.

What will be the effects of this decision for the United Nations? For trade? For American politics?  Some of our experts weigh in.

Leaving the EU would challenge the UK’s influence at the United Nations, says Katie Verlin Laatikainen, professor of political science at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. “Leaving the EU would have a negative impact on the UK’s influence in multilateral negotiations at the UN, because it would find itself outside this key group,” she writes in a co-authored blog post for the London School of Economics and Political Science. “Although the UK could certainly seek to build coalitions with other states, it would be operating in a context dominated by group politics, in which breaking out of established groups is difficult.”  CONTACT: (516) 877-4597 (office), (718) 962-4822 (cell) or laatikai@adelphi.edu.

“If the UK were to leave, I suspect they would quickly apply for membership in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which already includes non-EU members such as Norway and Switzerland,” says Nick Clark, assistant professor of political science at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa.  “EFTA would allow the UK to still have unfettered access to most parts of the EU’s single market. It is in both the UK and the EU’s interests to maintain as much free trade as possible, but EFTA membership would allow the UK not to have to comply with many of the EU’s unpopular political edicts. That said, though, the EU is already coping with several different crises and I think a British exit would be a big blow to the EU’s legitimacy and credibility in other EU countries. I doubt that others would seek to leave immediately, but the EU will be less likely to accomplish the sorts of political decisions that need to be made to address these other crises in the months and years ahead.” CONTACT: (570) 372-4726, clarkn@susqu.edu

The impact on American politics is unpredictable, says Tim Vercellotti, professor of political science at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass. “If the UK votes to leave, some might interpret the result as driven largely by anti-immigration views, giving some moral support to Donald Trump and his followers regarding concerns for immigration in this country. Brexit will also complicate economic relations between the U.S. and the United Kingdom, requiring the U.S. to treat the U.K. separately from the rest of Europe in trade negotiations.” Vercellotti is currently in London with students, teaching a course on national identity in the U.K. They will be attending at least one public debate at Westminster and will meet survey researchers to discuss public opinion on the referendum. CONTACT: tim.vercellotti@wne.edu.